How A Summer Camp Changed My Life?

By: Diana Serrano
University of California, San Diego, ’17, BA Mount Saint Mary’s University, ’20, BSN

As I browse social media, I see various posts about planned summer activities happening in the community. I can’t help but feel nostalgic for the summers I would spend at Camp Savio, the place that influenced my career choice and made me who I am today. I started attending Camp Savio as a quiet and insecure 6th-grade camper. Walking into Camp, I remember feeling overwhelmed at seeing campers running around and counselors that were just as energized. I immediately walked over to sit by myself in one of the corners of the room, ready to count down to the end of the day, but I was quickly joined by one of the counselors. The counselor sat to talk with me and asked what I liked to do for fun. When I told her, I liked art and sports, she got everyone to play what I wanted to make me feel more comfortable. She was my advocate.

When I was old enough to become a counselor, I ended up spending the next seven summers volunteering as a counselor at Camp Savio. I had no prior work experience, so Camp Savio was the first time I learned how to work in a team. In this team environment, I learned how to use my voice and work towards a common goal, advocating for our campers. At Camp, I had peers that I considered role models, and it was the first time I learned about the Salesian missions. It was amazing to hear the selfless stories of people around my age that had given up months or years of their lives to serve in different communities. As each summer passed, I felt myself grow and realize that I was happiest when serving others. This led me to go on Salesian mission trips to Tijuana and volunteer trips to Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I wanted to continue helping others by having that one-on-one opportunity to connect like I could with my campers at Camp Savio. My inner drive led me to pursue a career in nursing.

As a registered nurse, I continue to be an advocate for others. I carry what I learned from my experience at Camp Savio, such as always having an open and warm heart to offer. My experience at Camp helped me develop who I truly am. I became confident and bold enough to do what I love. The Salesian spirit has become a part of me. It has led to my involvement in various retreats offered by Savio and to join the Salesian Mission Animation Team.  I wish I could give my younger self a hug and thank her for making the best decision of her life by being a part of Camp Savio. It brings me joy to see Salesian camps expanding their presence and providing the opportunity for many youths to reach their full potentials. A small candle in a dark room may not illuminate the whole room, but it does illuminate whatever surrounds it. We may be one person in this big world, but like the candle, we make a difference in everyone around us.